Monday, 3 November 2014

[Review] Tusk

Coo coo ca Choo; move over Human Centipede, a new challenger has arrived in the form of a Human Walrus. Justin Long stars as Wallace; a failed stand-up comedian turned obnoxious podcaster. Together with his on-air partner in crime, Teddy (Hayley Joel Osment), they host a podcast known as "The Not-See Party" (say it fast, get it?). Their shtick is mostly that of taking the piss out of various YouTube celebrities. Their latest target of ridicule being a young boy who filmed himself accidentally cutting off his leg with a Samurai Sword after imitating the "Star Wars kid" video.

Amused, Wallace heads off to Canada in order to interview the boy for the podcast only to find on arrival that the boy has committed suicide. Disgruntled over losing his story, Wallace then heads to a bar where he discovers a flyer on the men's bathroom wall inviting visitors to hear stories about an elderly gentlemen's seafaring days. Intrigued, Wallace sets off into the pitch black of the night in order to find and meet the old man in question, Howard Howe (Michael Parkes). However, much to Wallace's despair, he finds himself the latest victim of Howard's desire to surgically create a human walrus.

Meanwhile, back at home, Teddy and Wallace's long-time suffering girlfriend Allison (Genesis Rodrigeuz) grow increasingly concerned as to the whereabouts of Wallace and set about a private investigation in order to find him.

The admittedly out-there concept of Tusk was originally birthed from an in-joke on Kevin Smith's very own podcast (SModcast), and quite frankly its where it should have stayed. Let's not beat around the bush here. Tusk is an abysmal failure in every way imaginable. Not only is it an abysmal failure, but it is also bottom-of-the-barrel Kevin Smith. That's saying something considering his abysmal 2010-film Cop Out.

At its most base, Tusk suffers from one hell of an identity crisis as writer and director Kevin Smith never once manages to figure out what exactly it is he wants to say. There's nothing of interest on offer here. Despite a somewhat decent set-up, once Tusk passes the 40-minute mark, it suffers from a jarring drop-off from being just mediocre to downright awful. From that point its only purpose is to become progressively more obnoxious, unfunny, disgusting, mean-spirited, and incoherent.

Does Tusk aspire to be a straight-up horror film? If so, then Smith utterly fails to establish an appropriate mood or tension as he annoyingly over-lights his set dressing. So is it a horror-comedy? No. Kevin Smith's over-reliance on scripted diatribe winds up feeling far too forced and out of place for such a situation. So it must be a morality tale, right? Yes, well to some degree it tries its damnedest to be.

The narrative eventually concerns itself with Wallace mourning for his long-lost humanity as Howard goes about his grisly surgery. But the morality tale falls so entirely flat as right from the get-go the audience is denied any reason to care about Wallace. In the course of just over 90-minutes, Justin Long does nothing to win us over. Making his eventual deplorable treatment all the more detached.

Despite a brilliant yet expected performance by the gleefully sinister Michael Parks, everything else surrounding falls completely short. Just when you think it can't get any worse. Smith then has the gall to treat us to one painfully overlong cameo from Johnny Depp, who shows up as a private detective sporting a thick French-Canadian accent that borders on downright racist. His presence somehow manages to sink the movie even further into the cold dark abyss for which there is no return.

Simply put, Kevin Smith has neither the temperament, discipline, skill or know-how to make this sort of film, and as such, it painfully shows on-screen. At best, perhaps he was aspiring towards levels of David Cronenberg. Or perhaps he was aspiring to make an enjoyable schlock fest in the mould of Frank Henelotter. Unfortunately for Smith, he ends up nowhere near either end of the measuring stick. And sadly the result of Tusk adds up to being its own mangled grotesque monster of a film. Just begging to be put out of its misery. Kind of fitting to some degree.

(out of five)

- Daniel M



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